(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils hosted their in-state rivals, the Arizona Wildcats, on Saturday afternoon to finish out the season. The Sun Devils finished off their season with an emotional five-set win over the Wildcats, 19-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-18, 20-18.
The Wildcats found a little separation in the fifth set when a kill from sophomore outside hitter Kendra Dhalke gave them a 7-5 lead.
The Sun Devils responded when a kill from junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro and a block from senior outside hitter Maya McClendon tied the set at seven.
Facing another two-point deficit later in the set, ASU responded with two kills from sophomore middle blocker Carmen Unzue and one from freshman outisde hitter Ivana Jeremic to take a 13-11 lead.
The two teams eventually found themselves tied at 15. After a long back-and-forth of trading points, two consecutive errors for the Wildcats gave the Sun Devils the 20-18 fifth set win.
The Sun Devils and the Wildcats split the first two sets, as Arizona took the first and the Sun Devils took the second.
Senior setter Penina Snuka led the way for the Wildcats through the first two sets with 21 assists and Jeremic led the Sun Devils charge with 11 kills on 18 swings and no errors.
Sun Devil head coach Stevie Mussie praised her teams ability to not pay attention to the extra activity going on off the court.
“There’s all these things that you can’t control,” Sun Devil head coach Stevie Mussie said. “To have this certain core of kids just not listen to the noise and stay the course, it’s a big piece of it.”
Sophomore setter Kylie Pickrell also noted that the team was able to play as one in front of their home crowd.
“We were able to hold each other accountable and pick each other back up,” K. Pickrell said. “When you’re in an atmosphere like this one, it’s a lot to take in.”
ASU continued its momentum and jumped out to an early 11-8 lead to start the third set, capped off by two consecutive blocks from Unzue.
The Wildcats responded with two separate runs of three and four points to take a 15-12 lead and force a timeout from the Sun Devils.
Arizona held its three-point lead for the remainder of the set and ended the third set 25-22.
Facing a two sets to one deficit, and a one-point deficit in the fourth set, the Sun Devils went on a four-point run to take an 11-8 lead.
ASU continued to extend its lead throughout the set, and wound up with a 25-18 fourth set win to force the decisive fifth set.
“This shows the amount of work we’ve had to put in this season,” K. Pickrell said. “To take a full new squad and to go through the highs and lows of rebuilding is a culmination of how much work and effort we’re able to put in on the court.”
ASU improved to 12-20 on the season, and 5-15 in Pac-12 play, with the win.
“They’ve all come so far,” Mussie said. “Being able to not let the referee bother you and understand you have to refocus, that’s a big sign of the good things to come.”
Unzue tied a career high, and Okaro, Jeremic and K. Pickrell all set career highs in today’s game. Unzue tied her career high in kills with 11. Okaro set her record with 20 kills, Jeremic with 21 kills and K. Pickrell with 64 assists.
With this being the last game of the season, the Sun Devils said goodbye to seniors Cassidy Pickrell, Maya McClendon, and Mia Mazon.